Up to £100,000 more could be being splashed on the Met’s investigation into lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, as police officers sift through hundreds of photographs, CCTV images and other evidence.
Image: Getty Images)
Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on Sue Gray’s party inquiry, the People has been told – as Boris Johnson scrambles to cling on to Downing Street.
Some sources estimate the cost of the Partygate probe could be as high as £80,000.
And up to £100,000 more could be being splashed on the Met’s investigation into lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, as police officers sift through hundreds of photographs, CCTV images and other evidence.
A senior former officer told the People last night (SAT) the police have been left in a “no-win situation” over the politically-charged probe – and are “not the appropriate agency to deal with this.”
A Cabinet Office source said no ‘additional public money’ had been spent on the Sue Gray inquiry.
But several senior civil servants from the Propriety and Ethics unit have been devoting their working time to the probe for weeks.
He said: “The Government does not comment on internal resourcing matters.”
Ms Rayner told the People: “Time after time, taxpayers are paying the price for the Prime Minister’s personal failures.
“Boris Johnson could have saved so much time and expense by simply telling the truth in the first place, and now he’s adding insult to injury by refusing to come clean on the costs.
“It would be an utter insult if this time and money was spent on an investigation that didn’t see the light of day. The Prime Minister cannot be allowed to break his promise to publish the report in full.”
Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine MP added: “If Boris Johnson had just come clean and answered a simple question, taxpayer’s cash could have been saved.
“Instead money that could have been spent helping people with their energy bills is being used to find out which Downing Street parties Boris Johnson attended.
“The whole situation is absurd. Ministers must publish the full Sue Gray report including any photos to prevent an expensive Whitehall whitewash.”
Tory MPs faced a weekend of soul-searching over whether to send letters of no-confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership, following a chaotic “clear-out” of senior Downing Street staff and advisors.
As many as 15 backbenchers from all wings of the party have publicly urged Mr Johnson to call time on his premiership.
And sources suggested the total number of no-confidence letters sent to backbench chief Sir Graham Brady could be in the forties – just a handful away from triggering a vote.
And the PM came under more pressure yesterday (SAT) as the Daily Mirror revealed police had been given a photograph of Mr Johnson holding a beer at a birthday party in Number 10, allegedly against lockdown rules.
The birthday snap, taken by Andrew Parsons, one of Mr Johnson’s tax-funded vanity photographers, is understood to be among 300 photographs handed to the police by Sue Gray’s team.
Peter Kirkham, a former Detective Chief Inspector with Scotland Yard, said a team of five to 10 officers sifting through vast swathes of evidence over a period of weeks could cost in excess of £100,000.
He said the Met Police would be “torn” between carrying out a throrough investigation to avoid any “unexploded bombs”, while keeping the costs as low as possible.
But he also said the scandal had left police chiefs in a difficult position because they faced being criticised for failing to investigate, while also being hammered for spending taxpayers’ cash.
Mr Kirkham said: “This is why the police do not do reactive investigations of minor offences that are only going to lead to a fine.
“Even if these people get the full £10,000 ticket, although most of them will not, the question is ‘Why are we spending all this money to achieve this?’
“With other minor offences like speeding, we ask what are the justifications for spending a shedload of money?
“Normally there isn’t one, to spend vast amounts of money like this. This isn’t murder, it’s not got life imprisonment attached to it.”
More than 218,000 violent crime offences were recorded in London in 2020-21 – an increase of 32,000 in five years.
Meanwhile, despite a promised £1.1bn increase in force budgets next year, police forces in England and Wales have struggled to cope with overall budget cuts of around 16% over the previous decade.
“This is almost a political decision, the decision to investigate it is unusual, Mr Kirkham added.
“It’s politically skewed because this is the Prime Minister, it’s the heart of Government and it raises public interest issues.”
Referring to the difficulties facing investigating officers and Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Mr Kirkham said: “The police didn’t want this investigation in the first place but the Commissioner is in a no-win situation.
“If she doesn’t spend the money she would be criticised for going at it half-cocked and ‘helping Boris off the hook’, that’s how it would be portrayed.
“If she does spend the money and someone adds the costs up retrospectively, they’ll say it cost us huge sums to achieve fines of a few hundred quid. She loses every time.
“That’s why the police are not the appropriate agency to deal with this.”
A Whitehall insider claimed Mr Johnson was “totally consumed with saving himself” – having spoken with 40 MPs one-to-one in recent weeks, yet only had calls with six world leaders.
“He even missed a call with Putin because he’s too busy trying to save himself,” the source said.
But they said Mr Johnson would “welcome” a no-confidence vote being held by the party, and believes he would win it easily.
“When that stuff lands there’s no way we’re not going to go over the tipping point,” the source said.
“The vote is 100% coming. But he doesn’t mind. The earlier the better.”
They added: “Once he wins the confidence vote – and he will win the confidence vote – he’s got a year.”